When creating content, whether for a blog, website, or marketing campaign, it is essential that we put in the effort to research and select the right keywords to focus on. By taking the time to understand search intent and analyze the competitive landscape, we can craft content that ranks highly and attracts qualified organic traffic. In this post, we will walk through a step-by-step keyword research process to show how it can be done effectively.
What are Keywords?
Keywords are the fundamental building blocks of online content. They are the words and phrases that encapsulate the essence of your content, making it discoverable to search engines and, consequently, to your audience.
What is Keyword Research?
Keyword research is the process of identifying and analyzing words and phrases that users input into search engines when looking for information, products, or services. This fundamental aspect of search engine optimization (SEO) helps website owners and marketers understand the language and queries their target audience uses.
How to Conduct Keyword Research
Step 1: Brainstorm Potential Topics and Ideas
The first step is simply sitting down and coming up with a list of topics that would be relevant for your site, product, or overall goals. Think about the types of questions your ideal customers ask and the language they use. Also consider synergies with existing content assets that could be expanded or repurposed. The goal here is to develop a broad list of keyword ideas that capture various themes and search intents.
Step 2: Use Keyword Research Tools to Expand Your List
Next, take those seed keywords and use online research tools to discover additional keyword variations and opportunities. Google Keyword Planner and SEMrush are two excellent free options. Analyze the suggested keywords for monthly search volume data and click potential. Look for rising trends and topics with solid traffic numbers. Mine the related and alternative keyword ideas for additional gems.
Step 3: Narrow Your Focus with Opportunity Analysis
Now comes the fun part – sorting through all those keywords to identify ones that offer the best possible opportunity. Pull out the high volume keywords and combine them with medium and low volume ones that have great relevance. Use the competition metrics in keyword tools to find “low-hanging fruit” that are less competitive. Create groups of keywords around topics that align with your goals.
Step 4: Cluster Keywords and Develop Content Themes
With a refined keyword list in hand, look for ways to cluster related keywords together under a shared theme or content focus. For example, review keywords may center around best products, guides, or user ratings. Support keywords could include troubleshooting, how-to, or installation. Identify 4-5 core themes that lend themselves to distinct content assets like blog posts, guides, or videos.
Step 5: Expand On Your Topics with LSI Keyword Research
Now expand your content keyword clusters by finding latent semantic index (LSI) keywords and variations. LSI analysis looks for synonyms and other closely related keywords that search engines associate with your targets. For example, “best laptop” may also trigger pages about “top rated laptops” or “most popular laptop computers”. Work these LSI keywords into your core content to improve relevance.
Step 6: Research and Analyze Your Competition
For each of your main keyword targets, dig into competitor content that currently ranks well in search engine results. Look for common elements across top 10 results in terms of keywords used, page structure, media assets, and formatting. Discover what is working for ranking success and opportunities to differentiate. For example, you may find competitors all focus on specs and reviews but lack buyer guides.
Step 7: Structure Optimized Content Around Keyword Targets
Armed with detailed keyword research and competitive analysis, map out your content. Determine what keywords will be the primary and secondary focus per piece of content. Develop an outline hitting key questions, media elements, and keyword targets throughout each section. Follow search best practices like using keywords in subheadings, URLs, meta descriptions, and image file names.
Step 8: Promote and Monitor Performance Over Time
You’ve created amazing content chock full of relevant keywords, now get the word out! Promote your new pages and posts through social media, email newsletters, guest posts, and outreach. Over time, monitor traffic sources and keyword rankings. See which terms and topics attract visitors and serve as conversion drivers. Feed those learnings back into an evolving, evergreen keyword strategy. Rinse and repeat!
Types of Keywords for SEO Content
Now that we’ve covered the keyword research process from start to finish, let’s provide more detail on the key types of keywords you want to focus on when optimizing content. Keep these categories in mind during research and brainstorming.
Head term keywords are the prominent main keywords for a page, occurring in titles, headers, URLs, meta descriptions, and liberally throughout the content. These terms have high search volume and relevance to the topic. Target 1-2 primary head terms per page.
Long-tail keywords are more specific multi-word phrases, like “best lightweight laptop for college students” or “how to fix laptop trackpad not clicking”. They have lower individual search volume but collectively can drive significant traffic. Long-tail keywords enable pages to rank for more specific intent queries.
LAT stands for lowest average tier and refers to keywords with low SEO difficulty scores and competition. Though search volume is lower, ranking potential is much higher. LAT keywords extend reach for pages by capturing additional queries.
As described earlier, LSI or latent semantic index keywords have a close semantic relationship with other terms. They include synonyms as well as conceptually related words and phrases. Adding relevant LSI keywords improves overall content relevance and opportunities for search visibility.
Topic clusters represent groups of keywords around a shared central theme, focus area, or subtopic. For example, laptop-related keywords may cluster around pricing, hardware, operating systems, technical support, and so on based on search intent.
Optimize Keyword Placement For Maximum Exposure
Now that we understand the key types of keywords to focus on, where exactly should they be worked into our content? Proper keyword placement is critical for signaling relevance to search engines. Here are the key areas to optimize.
Title Tags & Meta Descriptions
A page’s title tag and meta description offer prime real estate for showcasing primary keywords to both search engine bots and users in results. Avoid over-optimization, but do ensure keywords featured here match page content.
Headers & Subheaders
Properly structure content in an outline format with H1, H2, H3 tags for headers and subheaders. Incorporate keywords into descriptive headings that communicate the topic focus areas per section.
Image File Names & Alt Text
Take keyword optimization beyond text content. Ensure keywords are used in image file names and alternative (ALT) text that displays when images don’t load properly.
Keywords should flow naturally in body content as well around related term variations and LSI keywords. Aim for 1-3% keyword density in body text for optimum results without over-optimizing.
Outbound Links & Anchor Text
Be strategic with external links and anchor text. Choose descriptive anchor text incorporating keywords you want associated with the site rather than generic terms like “click here” .
When possible, work primary and secondary keywords into the page URL structure, separated by hyphens instead of underscores or spaces.
By focusing keyword placement across all of these elements in an integrated way, pages send strong topical relevance signals to search engines while also enhancing the user experience.
Evolve Your Keyword Strategy With Ongoing Analysis
Keyword research certainly demands a time investment up front. However, with the right process and tools, it is not as daunting as it seems. More importantly, keywords are not a set-it-and-forget-it aspect of content marketing success. To keep your content and rankings fresh, revisit keyword performance on an ongoing basis.
Here are a few best practices for evolving your approach over time:
Review Search Analytics
With Google Analytics, you can easily monitor which keywords and keyword phrases are driving traffic to your site over time. Look for new opportunities around rising queries warranting more focus.
Stay On Top Of Trends
Search intent changes over time as new technologies, products, and trends emerge. Revisit keyword research tools to identify rising keywords that may require new content development. Insert emerging keywords into existing evergreen content as well.
Expand Based On Referral Traffic Sources
Analyze your best referral sources sending visitors to your content. Look for keyword patterns from blogs, social media, or influencers that can inform expansion to new high-potential topics.
Optimize Based On Rankings & Click-Through-Rates
Monitor how your target keywords stack up in terms of search engine rankings and organic click-through rates from results pages. Double down on keywords driving conversions. Consider content refreshes for those with dropping positions.
List of Keyword Research Tools: Unlocking Insights for Success
When embarking on the journey of keyword research, having the right tools at your disposal can make all the difference. Here’s a curated list of both free and paid keyword research tools that empower you to unravel valuable insights and elevate your SEO game:
Free Keyword Research Tools:
- Google Keyword Planner: A staple for many, this free tool by Google provides insights into keyword search volumes, competition, and potential ad campaign performance. It’s an excellent starting point for beginners.
- AnswerThePublic: This visually engaging tool helps you explore the questions users ask related to your keywords. It’s a goldmine for content ideas tailored to your audience’s queries.
- Ubersuggest: Ubersuggest offers a range of SEO features, including keyword suggestions, competition analysis, and content ideas. Its user-friendly interface makes it accessible to marketers of all levels.
Paid Keyword Research Tools:
- Semrush: A comprehensive SEO toolkit, Semrush provides in-depth keyword research, competitive analysis, and site audit features. It’s a favorite among professionals for its robust data and user-friendly interface.
- Ahrefs: Ahrefs is renowned for its backlink analysis, but it’s also a powerhouse for keyword research. Uncover valuable insights into search volume, keyword difficulty, and competitor strategies.
- Moz Keyword Explorer: Moz’s tool offers detailed keyword suggestions, prioritized by relevance and potential. It also provides insights into the difficulty of ranking for specific keywords.
Pro Tip: Combining Tools for Synergistic Insights
While each tool has its strengths, combining the insights from multiple sources can provide a holistic view of your keyword landscape. Utilize the strengths of free tools for foundational research, and complement them with the advanced features of paid tools for a more nuanced understanding. Remember, the key lies in the seamless integration of these tools into your overall SEO strategy for optimal results.
Conclusion: Elevate Your Online Presence
In conclusion, keyword research is the cornerstone of successful SEO strategies. Rather than a one-and-done task, effective keyword research requires an adaptive and iterative approach that continually evolves. By following structured best practices and revisiting data often, you’ll unlock growing organic visibility and engagement.
If you need help with keyword research, contact 427 Digital today!